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WINGs Is Not GNUstep

While GNUstep is our ideal development framework, it's overkill for a window manager like Window Maker. We had a need for a quick, lightweight toolkit to handle basic window manager tasks, which is how WINGs was born, and why it has become an integral part of Window Maker's core.

Unlike the general uses of the GNUstep development environment, the WINGs toolkit was designed as a specific solution for Window Maker. It is not implemented in an object-oriented language, but was designed with OO schemas in mind. It is encapsulated in objects that have various methods (functions), which in turn can be accessed like real objects (i.e it's unknown what they contain, and they only have the interface functions to alter their data). As much as C will allow, that is. What really matters is that it's functional and small enough for our purposes.

Surprisingly, there have been several developers who think WINGs is mature and functional enough to write full fledged applications with it. For developers who are interested in creating real applications, we would encourage them to look at GNUstep instead. GNUstep is written in Objective-C, and anyone with a solid C++ background shouldn't need more than an hour to begin programming in Objective-C. For more information on this, please visit the GNUstep Developer Documentation section.

So, what does WINGs do for us, specifically? It contains many necessary widgets, such as the buttons, file browser, color chooser, and text editor dialog that are all used for creating the UI. It is currently missing a few important items, such as DnD, treeview, and application menus, but those will be integrated in future releases.

One of the more important aspects of WINGs is that it now provides proplist functionality. proplist, short for property list, is what Window Maker uses to generate and maintain structured configuration files. This data is stored as plain ASCII text under a user's ~/GNUstep directory. These files are what make up the menus, the current state and appearance of the desktop, the Dock, the Clip, and the values set in WPrefs.

As an example, here is a short snippet from the proplist version of the default menu:

(
        Applications,
        (
                Info,
                ("Info Panel", INFO_PANEL),
                (Legal, LEGAL_PANEL),
                ("System Console", EXEC, xconsole),
                ("System Load", SHEXEC, "xosview || xload"),
                ("Process List", EXEC, "xterm -e top"),
                ("Manual Browser", EXEC, xman)
        ),
        (Run..., EXEC, "%a(Run,Type command to run:)"),
...
)

External sources of information

As this section evolves, we will be providing more documentation on the internals of WINGs. For the time being, developers interested in WINGs should see Alexey Voinov's WINGsman documentation project. Starters may find this tutorial, which includes a library listing based on Voinov's work, useful. We'll try to cover some examples and/or more tutorials on how to program small applications in WINGs in the near future. For anyone already using WINGs for a project, please contact us, as we'd like to get an idea of its popularity and practical uses, as well as some additional material to place here.